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Eight ways to Take care of yourself

Take care of yourself.
This was a topic that’s been on my mind for some time to write about. Also, these days it is a commonly heard phrase. Here in this article, you will find eight ways to take of yourself. Even better – all of it is extracted from the life of Jesus Christ.
Taking care of yourself is important for your health and also for accomplishing your missions in life. Before we begin, let me make it clear that it is not selfish to take care of yourself. When you work well you deserve to attend well to your needs. Particularly many of those who work in service sector areas like medical, church, schools, or non-profits are overburdened and exhausted in their work. Unless conscious efforts are made for self-care, the resulting exhaustion affects your work and decisions badly. On the other hand, well-chosen self-care steps will help you to appropriately serve those who depend on you whether at home or work.
Some people who have a deep heart to serve find it hard or even think it a sin to take a break from serving. I have seen many in pastoral settings overburdened in their vocation but still not taking time to refresh themselves. Jesus, who was the epitome of service, showed through His life that caring for oneself is vital for many purposes which we are about to see. Let’s begin.

  1. Time to rest

Once, word reached Jesus that John the Baptist was beheaded. This was horrible and overwhelming news to the Lord and the disciples. His words at that time were “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31) Though it is very important to rest regularly, life presents us with moments where we might need extended rest or isolation from others. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed to get more time to rest. Because even during those times there might be someone who depends on you for their care. The point our Lord brings out is not to be missed. Certain life situations validate extra measures of taking care. It might be the death of a family member, or a worrisome disease. Find a way and place to get some rest.
2. Sleep during the storm.
Jesus and His disciples got into a storm once while sailing on a boat. While the disciples were afraid and screamed, Jesus is seen sleeping calmly on the boat. Certainly, through the story, we are to know the power God has over the wind and sea. But it also conveys that everyone will face struggles in life even when Jesus is in your boat.
Giving yourself a good night’s sleep is an essential way to take care of your health. Sleep enough and for a time which helps your body to get good rest. I hate to say the following to the adults who are reading this. Prepare your mind and body to have a consistent sleep routine. A sixty-year-old individual would have slept at least 20 years of his precious life in sleep. That’s a staggering proportion. But you need that to function well. Fear and worry can mess with sleep. Knowing that God is with you at all times is a soothing thought to put the worries at bay.
3. Allow others to serve you
Most people who I know to have a serving mind are rarely seen being served by others. In every church, family or workplace there may be two or three people who are always available to meet the needs of others around them. People around them also expect them to always serve. But if you are one of them you should know that there are times to let others serve you.
In Luke’s gospel, there is an interesting verse that deserves attention. It says these women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8:3, NIV) Even during the peak of a serving ministry, the Lord permitted a group of women to support his ministry.
You may be the most gifted person to serve in your community. But even you should occasionally let others serve you. By doing that you are also opening up a way for others to be blessed.
4. Prayer
Sadly, when preoccupied with a lot of commitments and tasks prayer may take the back seat in life. It is quite likely that most of our prayers become casual and less intense. Prayer is the most effective self-care tool available for everyone’s disposal all the time. Use it without hesitation. There come times when we need an intense or extended time of prayer. Whether it is temptations, sickness, worry, or preparing for a crisis, prayer is the appropriate and greatest way to take care of yourself.
Jesus, through His life, showed us how important it is to pray. Despite His supreme power and knowledge, He continuously demonstrated to us the importance of prayer. We find Him praying intensely and for a prolonged time during His temptations, before choosing his disciples, and at the Garden of Gethsemane. In two of those occasions, the Gospel states that Jesus was strengthened at those times by the heavenly angels. Yes, prayer is a miraculous and powerful way to take care of and strengthen yourself.
5. Choose to be with the right people
Jesus was seen engaged in an intense time of prayer the whole night before choosing His disciples. A significant part of his public life and continuity of the spread of the gospel was envisioned through this intimate group of disciples. It was important for Him to do it right. So, we see Jesus seeking the Father’s will through prayer. Consequentially, Jesus was showing us also how important it is to rightly choose whom we are going to surround ourselves with. Spend some time reflecting on who to spend your time with. If you spend time with the wrong crowd all the time, that is going to be a problem. Nevertheless, don’t get into the trap of associating only with people who make you happy or agree with all you do. That can destroy you completely. Instead, choose wisely who you want to associate with so that it will serve bigger purposes for you and them.
6. Come and eat breakfast
One of the last words of Jesus on earth was ‘come and eat breakfast’.
At that moment Jesus was serving the freshest catch of a grilled fish and bread to his dear disciples. There is every reason to believe Jesus ate right while on earth. It is not like he cared less about his health since he knew He was going to die soon or because he had the power within Him to heal Himself. How much more does He intend for us to eat right?
Incorporating healthy eating choices is an unavoidable way to take care of oneself. It doesn’t mean you punish yourself to eat something you don’t like all the time. There are plenty of ways one can plan dieting options which are enjoyable and healthy at the same time.
7. Ready to say no
Saying “no” is hard for certain people. But saying no when needed is vital to taking care of one’s self. Accept the fact that you can’t be everywhere and you can’t step into all needed opportunities. Most people with a heart to serve are over-utilized and exhausted. In every church or institution, we see a handful of people who are ready to serve for any need. You should learn to say no when necessary.
Jesus was once approached by a Caananite woman who asked Him to heal her daughter. Though initially He told her no, Jesus went on to heal her daughter. If you read the conversation between them, Jesus is making it clear that it was not His purpose at that time to heal every sickness around the world. In Jesus’ case, it was possible to intervene in every opportunity but still, He makes it clear that it is not the way He operates.
Saying no can be hard. But to many people just doing that itself is going to be a great way to take care of themselves. You don’t need to be worried about taking care of everyone.
8. Serve others

Maybe you are a person who is not interested in serving but preferred to be served. If you are one of them, it might be time to step up to an opportunity to serve others. In fact, serving is a great way for everyone to self-care. Find a way to show a random act of kindness. Or find a way to do some community volunteering work.
Jesus demonstrates a fascinating example of serving by washing the feet of His disciples. This happened some hours before he was going to be arrested and killed. Even at a time like that and though He is the master of them, Jesus, by doing so, set a benchmark of service to anyone. His words at the end of that moment were you will be blessed if you serve. Serving is a blessed way of taking care of oneself and others.
We began with the necessity of taking care of one’s self by stating it is not selfish to do so. Eight different ways are shown to help you to take care of yourself. All of them are extracted from the life of Jesus. Hope you find this non-exhaustive list useful. It is important to know that God Himself who came in the form of a human demonstrated how vital it is for one to take care of themself well.
How much more does He intend for us to do so?

Dijo John

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Light in the darkness

‘Democracy dies in darkness.’

This is the slogan of the acclaimed newspaper, The Washington Post. I don’t think even Jeff Bezos believes his media company will bring any special light to this world. By this point, it should be clear to us that no media nor any democracy (which is considered to be the best form of human governance) has the best interest to serve truth.

Where should someone look for light?

The world lies in darkness. There is uncertainty, fear, and hopelessness everywhere. The ongoing coronavirus disease is causing dread to everyone globally. But the worst enemy for all to fear is the unrepentant sin in one’s own heart. While the coronavirus is affecting many, sin affects everyone. We should come out of the coronavirus hopefully soon but how can the world get rid of sin? Only when someone knows the depth of the darkness in their soul will they start to seek after light. But one thing is certain no human creativity, intelligence or institutions have the capacity to extinguish the darkness of one’s soul. Because darkness will lead only to more darkness until the light is shown from outside.

Only when someone knows the depth of the darkness in their soul will they start to seek after light.

The first chapter of the book of John introduces a ‘Light’. They say the introduction is one of the most challenging parts of creative work like a book or a movie. Here in John, probably the most read book in the whole world, we see a very simple but unavoidable presentation of the Light the whole world needs.

Here are some words used to describe this Light.

It was in the beginning
It was the Word
It was with God
It was God
It made all things that were made
It was life
It was the light of men
It shines in the darkness

All of the above phrases are taken from just five verses of the first chapter. In the verses we know  ‘it’ is referring to  ‘Jesus Christ’. He is the Light that can extinguish the darkness in our soul.

The coronavirus disease is bad. We should be coming out of it quickly provided everyone follows proper safety precautions. But none of our work can save us from the darkness caused by sin. No amount of good works can save us from our sins. The Light has already come to this world as Jesus Christ. In Him is the fullness of grace and truth. There is a way for the world to experience peace, joy, and hope – that is in Christ alone.

Iconic Jordan Peterson was once asked by Dennis Prager: Do you believe in God?
Jordan Peterson’s reply to him was that it is too morally demanding to believe in God. So I don’t know if I am good enough to do that. (paraphrased)

Though seeming to be a great reply it has a misleading representation of God’s character. Jordan’s reply is rightly focused on God’s perfect holiness. That is why he talked about the moral demand arising from a holy God. His reply also directs our attention to the darkness in every human soul. Thus, he states ‘I am not good enough to come close to a perfect God’. Nevertheless, coming from a renowned clinical psychologist, this stance does not give hope to anyone.

However, the story does not end there. It is undeniable that God is holy. At the same time, He is full of love. Because of His free-flowing grace, God has prepared a way for us to believe in him and come close to him.  In fact, Jesus states “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

The Lord Jesus was once asked what we must do to be approved by God?
His answer was to believe in the one God has sent. (John 6:28-29)

This is the message of hope and redemption. By believing in the Light (Jesus Christ) one is admitting to his insufficiency and inviting God into his life. The darkness of sin can only be purged by permitting the light of Jesus Christ to shine in one’s heart.

Let His light shine in the darkness.

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Dialogue Without Diatribe- How can we learn to disagree without being disagreeable?

I was recently speaking at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, where I’d been asked to address the topic “Does Religion Poison Everything?” During the lecture, one student at the back of the lecture room gesticulated wildly every time I made a point with which he disagreed. At the end of the talk, there was a time of Q&A and this student was among the first to raise his hand. He began by self-identifying as an atheist and then proceeded to ask a series of increasingly complex questions about moral philosophy. After the event was over, the student found his way to the front and continued his questions and we went to and fro for about half an hour across a range of issues: Can you be good without God? Do you need God for moral values? What does the good life look like? Finally the student shook my hand and said, “I’ve disagreed with almost everything you’ve said in the last 90 minutes. But this has been the most fascinating conversation I can remember and you’ve given me much to think about. Thank you.”

That comment made my day because it was a refreshing break from the norm, in that often when those who hold to wildly different worldviews—atheism and Christianity, for instance—engage with each other, the result can be more heat than light. Atheists engage in “argument by soundbite” whilst religious believers sometimes write off those who disbelieve in God as immoral pagans, and thus neither side actually take the time to listen to the other. As Harry Lewis, the former Dean of Harvard College, once wrote, lamenting the fact that intelligent conversation about the deepest questions is now increasingly hard in universities (and his point might apply to the media and the marketplace, too):

What used to be the big question of humanistic learning — what does it mean to be human? — now has little place in the academy because there is no way to tell whether the question has been answered correctly or not.

It might encourage Harry to learn that one of things I have discovered in years of traveling across the world, speaking in a wide variety of settings, including many universities, is that I think many people are open to talking about some of these issues in a way that is intelligent and respectful. My colleague, Ravi Zacharias, and I were recently at McGill University in Quebec, for a pair of open forums entitled “Does Spirituality Matter?” We had been told by the organizers that we might, if we were lucky, get 100 students per evening. In the end, 900 per night attended, and the overflow room had an overflow. People of all faiths and none wanted to engage with the topic and the questions and conversation flowed long into the night.

I believe we stand at a cultural moment where the need to answer some of life’s biggest questions gets ever more pressing, as science, technology, and politics raise them all the louder. What kind of “questions” do I have in mind? The old ones:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Does life have any kind of purpose?
  • What does the ‘good life’ look like, and who gets to decide?
  • Is death the end and how does your answer to that question, negative or affirmative, effect the here and now?
  • Was Bertrand Russell right when, after reflecting on where his worldview predicted the universe to be heading, he concluded that “only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built”?

Whatever position one takes on these matters, we can at least agree, I hope, that these are not unimportant questions. They are also questions on which people disagree and thus we need to find a way—through dialogue, conversation, questioning and listening—to explore what others think.

Missing_Respectful Dialogue_Renew In Knowledge

When I lived in London, one of my favorite habits on a weekend was to visit Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park. Speakers’ Corner is affectionately known as the world center of free speech, for there anybody can stand on a ladder or a soapbox and speak about their beliefs—religious, political or otherwise. I learnt public speaking at Speakers’ Corner but also found it a wonderful place to debate and dialogue with people who radically disagreed with my Christian worldview, especially Muslims and atheists. (I so enjoyed those conversations that they led me to do a degree in theology and philosophy, and then a PhD in Islam.)

What I learnt at Speaker’s Corner and what I’ve continued to discover, as I’ve had the privilege of speaking to diverse audiences around the world, is that human beings are not going to agree on everything. The major worldviews disagree profoundly on almost all of the important questions (for example: are human beings merely atoms and particles, or do words like ‘mind’, ‘consciousness’ or even ‘soul’ refer to something?) But it is through dialogue and debate that we can be encouraged to think more deeply, stretched to consider the challenges to our own worldview, and perhaps challenged to rethink our own reasons for our convictions better.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer and political activist who survived the gulags and wrote with such insight into the human condition, was fond of this old Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world”. Much of the modern world is deeply pluralistic. Some people look at that pluralism and think the way to deal with difference is to rudely squash all challenging worldviews. Others think we should collapse the distinctives and say that “truth is relative”, that everybody believes essentially the same. But I think the way to a peaceful society lies down neither of those paths, not least because truth is too important to reduce to power plays or to relativism. Perhaps if instead we can to listen, to discuss, to dialogue, and to debate, we can find ways to live together with our differences.

Andy Bannister

This article is republished with permission from the author.

Dr. Andy Bannister is a popular speaker, author, and broadcaster. Andy is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Andy speaks and teaches regularly throughout the UK, Canada, the USA, and the wider world on issues relating to faith, culture, politics, and society. Andy holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and has published books both on Islam and atheism.

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Is God Against My Freedom?

One of my favorite movies is Braveheart. Who could forget that stirring speech made by Mel Gibson, playing Scottish hero William Wallace, as he motivates his troops at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with the cry: “They may take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!”

Freedom is a powerful idea and probably our culture’s supreme value. People want to believe they are free to choose their ethics, beliefs, values, and more. Our culture proclaims that choice is good, the more of it the better, and anything that restricts it is bad. And that’s a problem when it comes to God—surely, the protest goes, God is anti­-freedom. Don’t I have to choose between my personal autonomy and a belief in God?

Well, that depends how you define “freedom”. And defining it as “the absence of any constraints” is a bad way to begin, because no such version of freedom exists. For example, I want to be free to eat endless Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. I also want to be free to run a mile in six minutes. Those two desires conflict—I cannot choose them both and thus I am forced to decide which freedom is the most important and sacrifice accordingly.

This shows us something important: real freedom is not the absence of constraints but the right constraints. Furthermore, if I indulge my Creme Egg eating fixation, I will quickly discover my body has limits, as my waistline grows and my mile times drop. My choice has crashed into reality.

One of my hobbies is drone flying. The instructions that came with my eye-wateringly expensive flying camera warn about not flying it in enclosed spaces, such as woods. A few months ago, I made the mistake of ignoring that constraint, took it flying in a nearby forest, and bounced it off a tree, almost destroying it. If we use something the wrong way, we can damage it. So, what about us as humans: what were we designed for? Fascinating question, isn’t it?

There’s yet a further problem with defining freedom as “personal autonomy”: it destroys relationships. To be in a relationship requires you to make commitments and to sacrifice certain freedoms. When I got married, 18 years ago, I discovered staying out late at the pub without telling my wife, or spending hundreds of pounds on new gadgets without talking to her first, did not go down well. Now I was in a new kind of relationship, that required giving up some freedom—but with that sacrifice came commitment and love and new kinds of freedoms.

But there is one last problem with playing off “freedom” against “God” and it’s that the objection overlooks something: namely that nobody is free because everybody is serving something. If it isn’t God, then it’ll be your career, or your grades, or your bank balance, or your sex life, or a particular hobby. As David Foster Wallace, the Pulitzer Prize nominated novelist remarked:

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you … Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Worship these other things, give up your freedom to them and they will crucify you inside with self-loathing. In contrast, at the heart of the Christian faith, Jesus was crucified for you.

If you follow Jesus, yes there will be constraints, but they will be the right constraints, the ones designed by a God who knows you and loves you. And a God who, in Jesus, made the first move, giving up his independence when he went to the cross, so that you may know the loving relationship for which you were intended. As Gal 5:1 puts it: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Andy Bannister

This article is republished with permission from the author.

Dr. Andy Bannister is a popular speaker, author, and broadcaster. Andy is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Andy speaks and teaches regularly throughout the UK, Canada, the USA, and the wider world on issues relating to faith, culture, politics, and society. Andy holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and has published books both on Islam and atheism.

References

David Foster Wallace, This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009) 100-110.

I’m drawing here from  Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical (New York: Viking, 2016) esp. chapter 5.

Bound to be Free

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4 Principles for Life

 

  1. Don’t expect people will treat you the way you would like

All of us want others to treat us well.  Indeed, we often do good to others with the expectation that they will reciprocate or at least be appreciative of our kindness.  Nevertheless, we need to recognize that this will not invariably occur. There are times when even after selflessly and wholeheartedly caring for others we are repaid with apathy or worse.  I have seen this happen to many good people.

It is said that the pain caused by those we love will be felt more acutely than the pain inflicted by someone with whom we are not close.  It is strange but true that the disrespectful treatment we receive is often from people whom we love and care about. One of the ways those offenses comes is in the form of anonymous letters.  Regrettably, this is not unknown in churches. I am familiar with several gracious and godly church leaders who have been targeted by some of their own community members through those invidious letters.

Never underestimate the damage a jealous person can inflict. And jealousy is far spread than what we think or know,

In summary, we cannot control how others respond.  Likewise, we cannot always expect others will treat us the way we would like.

  1. Your own goodness shouldn’t be based on how others treat you

Think of the times when you were at your worst behavior.  I suspect much of it might have been in response to some bad experiences you had in your relationship with others. We all have heard about the kindergartner who said, “He pinched me, so I bit him back.”  We may have also witnessed otherwise mature individuals who nevertheless have held a begrudging attitude toward others because of past offenses they have suffered.

Offenses may come in many different forms and spring from a variety of motivations.  Sometimes people behave unkindly because of the difficult straits in which they currently find themselves.  In such situations, we must certainly not add to their burden through a harsh response.

We must also recognize that although we cannot control the actions of others, we may and must manage our own response.  It is axiomatic that we desire others to treat us well.

Christ famously said, “Treat others the way you want them to treat you.” Consequently, your goodness should not be based on how others treat you but rather on how we would like to be treated.

  1. Prepare for the worst

The best role model for preparing for adversity I have ever seen is my wise wife.  I think one of her life mottos is to prepare for the worst.  I have never known a person who is as gifted in this regard.  On several occasions, her preparedness was a lifesaver for our family.

One of the verses which I find thrilling is from the book of Jeremiah: “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? (Jeremiah 12:5 NASB)

The aforementioned passage was an admonition from the Lord to despondent Jeremiah about the trials yet to come.  In our own regard, difficulties in life surely lie before us.  It may be a health issue, relational problem, job loss, trouble with children, dangers, etc.

Proverbial wisdom says “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (24:10 NKJV)

Though we don’t know what will be the specific nature of future trials it is assured that they will come in one form or another.  Recognition of this fact should not leave us depressed.  Rather as the above proverb says it is a sign of strength to be preparing for worse things. People are shocked when tragedy strikes because they didn’t understand where in the world it came from.  On the other hand, when one is well-prepared he is able to better resist the unexpected trials which are common to life.

  1. How you finish is more important than how you start

We all have heard about the importance of making a good first impression.  I am not a big fan of this idea, perhaps because I am not skilled at it.  Additionally, many people have been misled by a deceptive first impression.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

Those words are from someone who started his life journey well, then sumptuously pursued all the pleasure the world can offer, and finished the latter part of his life living in regret. Shockingly, the above words are from Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived.

Too many talented people who began strongly have failed terribly.   In many instances, the underlying reason is pride. Pride breaks a person down.  If you are successful or if you are talented don’t let pride steal your continued success.

In a former era the Apostle Paul wrote from a prison in Rome: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” His earlier life had consisted of persecuting the budding Christian church.  However, at the time he wrote the above-mentioned words, Paul was sitting in a prison and those words which he penned would eventually form part of the sacred Scripture.  Paul was the most prolific author of books in the Bible.  He poured out his life for the cause of spreading the message which the Lord Himself had commended to him. His faithfulness to that call resulted in him boldly declaring to his readers “I have finished the race.”  Paul finished well.

First impressions and noble beginnings are certainly advantageous but of much greater importance is how you fulfill an important task.  Focusing on completing the goal should give hope and motivation to be faithful in pursuing one’s life mission.  Nothing should prevent one’s light from shining.  May this motivate us all to diligently pursue meaningful things.

Dijo John

 

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Just why do people leave a church?

People ask me why one leaves a church or, more specifically, our church. This would be the answer which would win one the Christian Nobel Peace Prize, if there were such a thing. Yet, the question is all the while quite valid and reflective. I would like to make some contemplative suggestions in defining an answer.

Number one: Our sub-culture. Now it is quite fashionable to find fault with our culture as it feels stylish to level an indictment against something so ill-defined. However, in this one case, the culture has had a persuasive effect. What I am referring to is the culture that sets the consumer up as the ultimate determinate of quality, success, and viability. It is the patron who writes the review as to the superiority of service or whether wants were anticipated or how well needs were met. Businesses have instructional classes for their employees on how to bolster consumer scorecards. The buyer has the power and is thus the “god” of all transactions. Unfortunately, business dogma becomes church dogma: “Just remember, the customer is always right.”

To our decline, this mentality has become the adopted criteria for ranking churches. “What programs do they have for my family or my children? What policies are in place for the destitute? What are the protocols for child safety? What are you doing for me?” Contrary to the tenor of Scripture, the threesome of “me, myself and I” become an earthly and unholy trinity that demands all others bow to my whims and whistles. The God of heaven thinks and believes in the opposite direction for He actually emptied Himself of all claims for homage and took the human station which ranks at the lowest rung of society (Phil 2:6-7). Yet, a church is held to the same philosophical standards as is a restaurant or a hospital or a hotel. The Christian today either wittingly or unwittingly demands “church to impress them or I will vote with my feet and leave.” As the dominos fall, church leadership acquiesce to compete for each other’s audiences by ever-expanding, super impressive venues of lights and sounds or mesmerizing sermon exhibitions or hipster lobby coffee bars.  When the church business plan has run its course, all that is left is an empty shell of a burned-out business model, but no Bride filled with His Spirit. This is hardly the church as depicted in the New Testament. The Christian consumer sets one’s self up as a moving target that cannot be satisfied. Churches simply cannot keep up with the hype.

The Bible uses familial terms, such as father or mother or brother or sister, more than any other to describe its people. Families, real families, come with problems and differing levels of development. Kids do spill milk and babies have diapers that need to be changed.

 

The second suggestion aimed at answering, “why do people leave” is rooted in the first suggestion: One’s expectations.

The church-goer is searching for an organization that provides the latest and the greatest of Christian gadgetry and gala events. They are looking for the best cut of steak each time and every time. Failure here means that you really are not a five-star church. You are only a three-star establishment and one will not spend one’s money on what is not the best. However, I submit to you the wisdom of only eating highly-rated cuisine is not only unsustainable, but it also is simply not reality. These expectations utilize the wrong barometer. What church life really is, is a family. The Bible uses familial terms, such as father or mother or brother or sister, more than any other to describe its people. Families, real families, come with problems and differing levels of development. Kids do spill milk and babies have diapers that need to be changed. This is true for a family on Elm Street and equally true for the church family on “Saint Street.” Parents gladly listen to the struggling dissonant sounds of their child at the school recital. In contrast, we in the pew have no patience for the Christian kindergartner making discordant tones while playing their gifted instrument of service. We have lost the worth and attraction of what it means to be a family and cheering each other on and watching each other learn to crawl, then walk, then run, then ride a bike, and then run the race like an athlete of God. This is a process that takes longer and has more twists and turns and is full of tear laden failures. Yet its advantage is that it links believers together with inseparable bonds of love. It is by this family unit that our souls become welded as one. Is this not the end goal of Christ’s prayer: “That they may be one as we are one?” (Jn 17:22). Is this not the intimacy that the current day Christian is craving? We are blinded to the family unit designed to cultivate such loving harmony.

The third contributor to church going departures is a fatal assumption. The Christian today makes conjecture that newer is better.

Church_RIK

“Tradition,” thus by definition is obsolete and unable to keep pace with the ever-improving lifestyle that the present-day Christian sports. As a result, “what we have always done” becomes a stench to the nostrils of the young and the restless. Such a presumption has all the wrappings of progressive theory but has the stress fractures of short sidedness and immaturity. I have rarely heard this philosophy ask the next logical question: “Why did this tradition come about anyway?” The truth is that most long-term practices began as wise reactions to ancient problems which share the same roots as problems of today. If a causal church-goer would force oneself to look beyond the superficial and ask this same question, then I believe such a person might find the greener grass is not so green. The chances are that a tradition identified as archaic may actually be the kernel that breeds an alternative tradition for the upcoming generation. After all, there is a high probability that what you see as tradition started for very good reasons. Just because one challenges the older, does not make it wiser.

I believe this type of scrutiny will yield far richer results than simply looking for other church grasses that have a prettier shade of green.

The consequences of the above leads the average church-goer to hold it better to be served than to serve. This philosophy is the precise opposite of Christ’s: “I did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). We end up with more spectators than we do participants. The spectators sincerely believe they are doing their part by spectating and the participants are overwhelmed at the scope of family care. We falsely believe that the way to growth is increasing the percentage of spectators. The Word of God brings a lightening jolt on this one: It is only as each person does his or her active share, that true growth will come from God (Eph 4:16). Bonafide God-driven growth is not via a stealth program to increase people nor contributions. Who will be the adults and roll up their sleeves, get their elbows dirty, and become spiritual caregivers as opposed to fleshly care-observers? If the “missing link” is discovered by your eye, then why are you not looking to resolve the deficiency rather than telling the leadership to fix it?

So, have I qualified for the Christian Noble Peace Prize? Most likely not, but rather raised the ire of the reader. This is not my intention. May I ask you at least, to begin a careful analysis of yourself in the mirror of God’s word. Does the sub-culture of making consumer reviews dominate one’s estimate of a church? Do undone expectations trample the motif of a growing and evolving family? Has the assumption that a tradition is archaic blinded you to its intrinsic worth? Finally, have you slipped from participating to spectating while waiting to be served?

I believe this type of scrutiny will yield far richer results than simply looking for other church grasses that have a prettier shade of green. In any case, we have some grass to chew on. This is not a blogger’s moment to sound alarms and vent apprehensions. Rather, this is time for conscientious questioning by each one about their heart condition in the presence of the Great Physician’s private exam room. Have you lately asked Him His opinion about your version of “doing church?” Possibly, you are afraid to ask the question and hear His diagnosis.

By Steve Price

 

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Celebrate small moments

5th or 50th – What will you celebrate more?

Big numbers get more attention – that’s the way we think.

However, 50 years can’t be reached without crossing 5 months or 5 years…Yes, there are bigger moments in life that may get more attention and appreciation. That doesn’t, however, put anyone in a position to not find joy in the smaller moments which life brings. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate small victories as well.

 The tendency is to move to the next big thing immediately when some goals are reached. This human ability is used by sales managers to push their team to higher targets each upcoming cycle. But if we don’t take time to enjoy the things we are accomplishing perhaps we are unknowingly sowing seeds of discontentment and bigger troubles which will spout from it. So let’s be intentional in choosing to be joyful regardless of the size of the achievements in our lives.  

This month the department where I work conducted a large public event on the topic of Drug addiction and recovery. One of the things shared by a speaker at the event seemed to be connected to the overall theme of this article. His thought was to celebrate the sobriety even when accomplishing smaller victories in the recovery process. Regardless of the type of addiction one is trying to conquer, whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling, I think this is a very practical piece of advice to follow. 

Successful recovery emerges more from a joyful heart than from a hopelessly sad attitude. 

When people come out of very serious long-lasting addictions they may be captivated by the thought that they need a longer period of recovery to compensate for the loss. This thought, however, increases the stress on the process and person. Each day of the addiction-free life is a day to celebrate and that attitude will be very helpful in crossing major milestones of freedom. There is another thing that can hinder success. That is the human way of thinking – the more damage there is the more good is needed to correct it. If you adhere to this idea of behavioral economics your journey forward will be unsatisfying. Let me take your attention to one of the stories told by the Lord Jesus Himself. 

The parable of the Prodigal Son, undoubtedly one of the greatest stories ever told, has touched millions of lives. Jesus tells this story in the context of how much God looks for the return of a lost person. In this parable the younger of two sons squanders his father’s money in a far away land. Soon, he reaches a stage of life where he loses everything and almost becomes like an animal. Finally, at one good moment, he decides to go back to his father’s house. Seeing his son returning the good old man runs toward him to receive him. Not only that, but he puts together one of the biggest celebrations the household has seen because of the return of his once lost son. Through this parable, Jesus was conveying a point that is contrary to most human understanding. That is – God celebrates the moment a person repents. Wow…that’s very different than the way I would have responded.

The lesson from this story is that God waits for everyone to come to His presence. Don’t hesitate to immediately return to the Heavenly Father at any stage of your life, however deep you are lost. 

At any season, find a reason to celebrate life, even if it is something small. That joy which you find even in smaller things will give you the strength to achieve more victories. 

By the way, this week is my fifth wedding anniversary!!!! 

Dijo John –     Renew In Knowledge

Marriage of the Lamb_Renew In Knowledge

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How to deal with discouragement while doing good work

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10

This Bible verse is a message of encouragement. It not only comforts us but gives us a hope of steadfastness, and enables us to press on forward faithfully. Here, better things could be said of them to be optimistic because God will not forget the works of genuinely saved believers and the love shown when they minister to the saints. Remember, faith, hope and love are the hallmarks of true Christianity.

Do not be discouraged

Often, we are so discouraged thinking that God has forgotten us. But we should never encourage such thoughts. God never forgets or overlooks our hard work for Him. We may not receive our rewards right away, but God knows our every effort of love and ministry we do for Him.

There is an old tale about Satan walking on the street of life, sulking in the shadows with his hunting dogs, the assistant demons. A man, Albert, came walking down the street; Satan said to the little demon, scowling with bitter face: “Go, get him for me!”. Quickly he crossed the street, silently and lightly hopped on to the man’s shoulder. In his ear he whispered, “You are discouraged.”

‘”No,” said the man, “I am not discouraged.”

“You are discouraged!” insisted the demon. This time the man replied, “I don’t think I am.” Louder and more decidedly, the demon repeated, “I tell you, you are discouraged.” Albert dropped his head and murmured: “Well, I suppose I am”. The little demon darted back to Satan and said proudly, “I have got him; he is discouraged.”

Another man, Carlson, passed. Again, old Satan said: “Get him for me!” The proud little demon of discouragement repeated his tactics. The first time, he said. “You are discouraged,” the man replied emphatically, “No”. The second time Carlson replied, “I tell you I am not discouraged!” The third time he said, “You lie! I am not discouraged” and he walked down the street, his head erect, going straight towards the light. The imp of discouragement returned to his master, crestfallen, “I couldn’t get him,” he reported. “Three times I told him he was discouraged. The third time, he called me a liar, and that discouraged me!”

Satan is ready to step in with his cunning devices and stratagems to discourage and disappoint believers. At such moments we have the right prescription from the Scripture and that is “Resist the devil; he will flee away from you.”

Disappointment is Fatal

Let God’s love for us and His intimate knowledge of our service for Him bolster us as we face multiple rejections and disappointments here on earth. No matter what life takes us through, let the hope and faith we have anchored in the Lord, keep us pressing forward to do more for Him. Periods of lingering frustrations are common in each one of our lives. Some days are like diamonds – bright and shining while some other days may seem like a stone – unimpressive and unattractive. Yet we must always remember to clothe ourselves in confidence and focus on the almighty God.

Ministering to the Lord

There are few things that accompany salvation. Evidence of salvation will manifest in the lives of saints namely their work of the faith, labor of love and patience of hope. The Lord’s ministry should be done heartily, not grudgingly and as to the Lord and not to men. ‘Ye serve the Lord Christ,’ (Col.3:24). Those who persevere in a diligent discharge of their duty shall obtain the full assurance of hope in the end.

Reward in heaven will not be for prominence or apparent successes; they will not be for talents or opportunities, but rather for faithfulness as to the Lord. The Lord’s ministry is a responsibility and we must take it seriously – continue doing it and finish the task faithfully.

In the name of the Lord

Apostles and early Christians continued to serve the Lord’s people in the name of the Lord. Likewise, we have to steadfastly minister to the Lord as long as we have the health, ability, and opportunity. But, only do the ministry which you have been called to do and that which is received from Jesus Christ according to the will of God. The Bible teaches us a very important lesson that the humblest ministry (Mt.10:42) can be glorified and dignified by doing it for the Lord. While serving the saints in the name of the Lord, always remember to fret not, faint not, fear not or forget not.

Certainty of God’s promises

Remembering the reward that lies ahead should encourage us as believers to carry on the work, entrusted into our hands, till we can declare that we have finished it faithfully. Since faith must wait long to be rewarded, we may be tempted to grow weary. But if we have anchored our hope in God our savior, we will never be disappointed. The example of Abraham is given as a stimulus and through this the certainty of hope is affirmed. God is righteous therefore the fulfillment of the promise is assured.

Conclusion

Lest we become discouraged and disappointed, the Bible reminds us to have faith and hope in the Lord for rewards are certain even if not immediate. Over the medical school of the old St.Bartholomew’s hospital are carved these words: Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.

The story is told of a king who placed a heavy stone in the road and then hid and watched to see who would remove it. Men of various classes came and worked their way round it, some loudly blamed the king for not keeping the highways clear, but all dodging the duty of getting it out of the way. At last a poor peasant on his way to town with his burden of vegetables for sale came, and contemplating the stone, laid down his load, and rolled the stone into the gutter. Then, turning round, he spied a purse that had lain right under the stone. He opened it and found it full of gold pieces with a note from the king saying it was for the one who should remove the stone.

Those who expect a gracious reward should not be slothful. They must not love their ease and lose their opportunities. Therefore, ‘Beloved brethren, be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord’.

C.M.John

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Jim Haesemeyer

Jim Haesemeyer is an elder at FreeWay Bible Chapel located in Lubbock, Texas. Jim received a BS and an MS degree from Texas Tech University, an MDiv degree from Luther Rice Seminary, and a DMin degree from Pensacola Theological Seminary. Jim has served on the mission field in Honduras for nearly thirty years. He and his wife, Sharon, have three children and nine grandchildren.

Favorite book of the Bible: Revelation–it’s the end of a wonderful, amazing story.

Favorite Bible character: any one of the three chief men of 1 Chronicles 11

Favorite food: Texas barbecue beef

What makes me happy: Spiritually speaking, leading a person to Christ. Speaking non-spiritually, being with my family.

What inspires me to write: The hope that what I write will be an encouragement to others

What one thing from earth would I like to have in heaven: the memories of God’s grace to me throughout the years of this present sojourn

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The Church of Philadelphia: Lessons on Love

One may say, with unquestionable justification, that the central theme of the Bible is love, the most salient aspect of which is God’s love for mankind, His special creation.   But the Bible is likewise profuse in instruction for God’s children to reflect His great love by loving others, both the saved as well as the unsaved.   In this regard, Jesus often told His listeners parables, such as that of the Good Samaritan, to illustrate what true love is and how it is shown.  Interestingly, Jesus also illustrates the many ramifications of love to us by means of an exemplary church, the Church of Philadelphia.  This, then, will be the focus of our continuing series in the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Before we can begin a proper study of Jesus’ message to the believers in Philadelphia, it is important to recognize the astounding relationships to be seen between the character and needs of the seven Asian churches to whom Jesus directs His letters and the cities in which the various churches are located.  Nowhere is this phenomenon as evident as it is in the Church of Philadelphia.

With this in mind, let us begin our penultimate study of the Churches of Revelation by examining the character and attitude of the Philadelphian believers and the historical background of the city in which they ministered.  In this way, we find not only valuable lessons for our Christian lives but encouraging and sustaining promises as well.

Background

Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven churches that Jesus Christ addressed, having been established in 189 BC by the King of Pergamum, Attalus II.  King Attalus was well-known for his devotion to his brother Eumenes, and subsequently acquired the name Philaldelphias, meaning “brotherly love.”   As is true with the other cities to which Jesus addresses His letters, the name Philadelphia has special significance with regard to the nature of the church there.

Philadelphia was located between two mountains, in a narrow pass, and lay along an important trade route between Sardis and Smyrna.  Most significantly, it was situated where the borders of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia met.  This strategic location was chosen in order that the city could serve to promulgate a Hellenic culture and lifestyle to the tribes to the east.  In other words, Philadelphia was established to be a “missionary city.”

Unfortunately, the city was sited in a zone of considerable seismic activity.  Earthquakes were frequent and the people, who lived in fear of collapsing buildings and walls, would often flee from the city when temblors were felt.  According to the Greek geographer Strabo, many inhabitants chose to live in huts outside the city walls or in the open country to avoid being trapped or crushed in the event of an earthquake.

Interestingly, Philadelphia was the last of the seven cities of Revelation to lose its Christian testimony.  The Muslims eventually conquered the city around the year AD 1000.  The modern town of Alasehir is now located at the site of ancient ruins.

In summary, there are several important points to note as we continue our study:

  • Philadelphia was the city of brotherly love.
  • Philadelphia was established as a missionary city.
  • The inhabitants would often flee the city.
  • It was difficult for Christians because of Jewish opposition
  • The Church of Philadelphia represents the church age from 1750-1925 AD. This age saw the Great Awakenings as genuine revival spread across America and the British Isles. It was then that the great missionary movement began.

With this in mind, let us read the message which Jesus sent to the church:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 NKJV

Jesus’ Description of Himself

In His letters to the seven churches, the Lord generally begins with a description of Himself derived from John’s representation of Him in the first chapter of the book of Revelation.   To the Philadelphian Christians, however, Jesus deviates from this pattern and rather presents Himself as “He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.”  This is an allusion to an Old Testament reference (Isaiah 22:20-25) and is clearly a promise of Christ that He is sovereign over all matters, even those which seem impossible to us.

Scholars have proposed three interpretations of Christ’s words, each of which has a degree of biblical support:

  • Seemingly the most obvious interpretation is to regard the door as one of opportunity for evangelism. One is reminded, for example, of Paul’s experience in being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach in Asia but rather directed toward the open door of Europe (Acts 16:6-10).  This interpretation enjoys the contextual support of the passage—Philadelphia was a missionary church and Christ, in His sovereignty, would open (or conversely, close) doors of opportunity to witness.
  • Another perspective is that the Christ is the door of salvation. This idea is supported by Jesus’ own words in John 6 (verse 9).  Christ offers the opportunity for salvation to all but repeated rejection can result in the door being closed, as in the moment in which God Himself closed the door of the ark in the days of Noah.
  • Finally, some believe that Jesus is referring to the blessings Jesus is able to abundantly bestow on His children. As seen in Malachi 3:10, service to God will result in an outpouring of His goodness.

While each of the above interpretations is scripturally correct, I believe that principally Jesus is assuring us that He will faithfully be with us in our service for His Name, in spite of all opposition.   Among Jesus’ final words while on earth were, “Go ye therefore…Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

As Jesus continues His message for the Philadelphian Christians His promises are seen to extend far beyond their present troubled situation.  He tells them (and remember, these promises are applicable to us as well!) that they will be kept from “the hour of trial,” undoubtedly a reference to the coming seven years of tribulation during which the earth will be judged.

Additionally, Jesus assures the Christians that they will be pillars in the temple of God.  This is reminiscent of the two pillars that Solomon constructed in the courtyard of the first temple.  These pillars were called “Jachin,” meaning “establish” and “Boaz,” meaning strength (1 Kings 7:13-21).  Although the Philadelphians had little strength at the time (verse 8) and lived in unsettled and transient circumstances, Jesus promises them that will be established in positions of strength and power as co-heirs of Christ’s millennial kingdom.  They need never worry again about oppression or persecution because Jesus will write His very Name on them.

Jesus tells the Christians that they “will no more go out” in reference to their security in the New Jerusalem.   Remember that the people of Philadelphia frequently fled the city when they sensed that another earthquake was imminent.  The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect place in which fear and flight are completely unknown.

Jesus ends His commentary to the Philadelphians by declaring, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Of the promises given, this is perhaps the most precious.  Jesus proclaims that His words are not just for an isolated community in Asia Minor which existed two thousand years ago.  Those same promises enumerated to the Philadelphians are just as valid for Christians throughout the centuries and living in any part of the world.  The promises of Christ are to us!  He is with us always and we have the assurance of a glorious and secure future in His presence forevermore.

Jim Haesemeyer

 

 

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Is Social Media Taking Over our Lives?

More than any other aspect of modern technology, social media has impacted our daily lives. Take a moment to look around– you will notice that nearly everyone has their nose glued to their smartphone.  There is an urge to Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Tweet even the most mundane of our daily activities as we express our identity to the world. We share our insecurities, pour out our condolences and give virtual likes and hugs.  In fact, we are rapidly moving toward creating a cyber existence in which we create a contrived image of ourselves on social media by means of the photos we update, the posts and statuses we share, and the comments we make.  A picture is not complete unless you filter it on Snapchat and a life event is not fully experienced unless you share it on Facebook and Instagram. Yet the Bible declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14, KJV).  If this is so, then why should we seek to present a virtual-idealistic version of ourselves?

The world has been taken by storm by the onset of the social media obsession.  Our priorities have changed and our habits have been modified as social media increasingly encroach into our lifestyles.  For many, the first activity of the morning is to check instant messaging like Whatsapp and Messenger.  Contrast this practice with that of David, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3).  Even the Lord Himself began His day by seeking the Father, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, NIV).

While social media platforms are useful to keep us connected with the life events of friends and families, there are other posts on these networking sites that can be decidedly detrimental.

The first of the Ten Commandments states ‘You will have no other gods before Me” and yet in a practical sense social media oftentimes take first place in our lives.   Whatever displaces God from preeminence in our lives becomes, in effect, an idol.  The Bible says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). We have to be careful not to let social media become more important than our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ because there is nothing good apart from our Lord Jesus Christ (Psalms 16:2).

While social media platforms are useful to keep us connected with the life events of friends and families, there are other posts on these networking sites that can be decidedly detrimental.  It is impossible to avoid the obscenities of what ungodly people post neither can we avoid the suggestive commercial advertisements.  The Bible clearly says, “fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable” (Philippians 4:8).

It may not seem that way, but every picture you post, every status you update, every account you follow and every comment you make on social media is a representation of Christ to those who don’t know Him. Therefore we have to be very careful and thoughtful before posting and liking articles or following a page. While our words and pictures can encourage others, they also have the power to discourage. Before you share something on social media, ask yourself, why am I sharing this post, picture, or video?  Remember “you have been raised with Christ,” and therefore “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians. 3:1-2, 17)

It is important that we not be slaves to a virtual world that diverts our focus from Him through pop-up notifications.

Interestingly we are also discovering another remarkable development in our churches—use of smart phones instead of a traditional Bible. Influx of smartphones into worship services comes with consequences. The phone can be a distraction even when you use it only to read the Bible because of pop-up notifications from other apps, especially from social media apps. The never-ending notifications can take your attention away from the Word. Using the phone in church brings the temptation to do other things too. Once that phone is in your hand your mind jumps to Whatsapp and messenger texts, Facebook timeline and Instagram stories. Most of us are guilty of checking our phones during worship/bible studies or to have walked off in between church-meetings to attend calls. The Bible says, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” (Mathew 21:12). If Jesus were here today, He perhaps would have thrown our phones out of the church because Christ says, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer” (Mathew 21:13) and thence nothing should be there that would distract our thoughts from the Lord. There is absolutely nothing that we would miss out on if we don’t carry our phones to church. There is, however, a lot that we would definitely miss out on if we don’t place Christ as our first priority in life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is a jealous God and He demands our wholehearted devotion and undivided attention while we are in His presence.  It is important that we not be slaves to a virtual world that diverts our focus from Him through pop-up notifications. Paul says, “I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” (1 Corinthians 7:35).  We must choose Christ above all things and love Christ above all things.

Did you know? Even before social media introduced the ‘Follow’ button, Jesus has sent out a follow invite: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mathew 4:19). “Be ye therefore followers of God” (Ephesians 5:1).

Nimmy Merlien Philip – Guest Contributor

Nimmy Merlien Philip is a freelance journalist from Manipal, India. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Media and Communication.

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Tips on Making your Resolutions and improving your faith life

A new year is on the horizon. If you are like me, you may be thinking about resolutions to be considered for the year. However, some of you may be doubtful or reluctant because of the fear of failure. Undoubtedly, all of us fail in one way or another in our new year resolutions. In fact, few of you may not even remember what your resolutions were in the past year.

I have some tips to help you accomplish your new year decision.

1. Make it a positive action plan

Often, we fail in our resolutions when our goals start like “I will stop doing this…” Why not consider some goals with a positive action? Last year my goal was to read the complete Bible in one year. Contrary to several of my past new year resolutions, this one began with an I will statement namely: I will read the complete Bible in English in one year. Even though English is my second language, I successfully completed my one-year plan. My recommendation to you is, consider a positive action plan which is enjoyable and at the same time beneficial to you.  

As lifestyle conditions like diabetes and hypertension are getting highly prevalent, many of you may be considering an action plan which involves lifestyle choices on food or exercise. However, most people fail in their goals as they focus on no’s and don’ts. Instead, why don’t you try to make a positive resolution this time? A specific action plan of jogging/walking 45 minutes three days a week can be more successful than an action plan of not spending much time in front of the TV or computer.

Wow! I think this prayer journal might have been a key secret of George Mueller’s remarkable faith. How could a person not grow in his faith when he sees thousands of prayers are answered by the Lord? 

2. Use reminders

The odds are high that you may not even remember your resolution when you reach the second month of the year. Use reminders to stay on track with your plan. Writing reminders on calendars or sticky notes and putting them in mobile phones, etc. are all good ways to remind you about your goal. Though reminders are helpful throughout the year, it is highly beneficial if you use it in the first two months. The role of reminders will be minimal once you turn your decision to action and incorporate it into your routine.

3. Be specific

Specific plans help to stay focused rather than making some general plans. For instance, stating I will read the whole Bible this year using the M’Cheyne One Year Reading plan is a very good plan than stating I will read the Bible more this year. Many times it even helps if you select a scheduled time or selected place depending on what is your goal for the year.

The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish more than what he can do if he solely depends on his own strength.

4. Be flexible

Don’t be hard on yourself with your plan. Be flexible to yourself even if you miss some days. There were times when I missed my reading plans for the day. However, I caught back on it in the following days. Keep in mind your aim is not perfection, but the best possible ways for you to stay on track of your resolution.

5. Ideas for making resolutions

If you are still thinking of what resolutions to make, here are some themes for your new decisions based on the first chapter of the book of James.

  • Dedicating time for consistent prayer (1:5)
  • Pursuing some plans which are unfading, not just materialistic pursuits (1:11)
  • Improving your listening skills (1:19)
  • Reading, memorizing or studying the word of God (1:21)
  • Visiting and encouraging people going through distress (1: 27)

6. Pray consistently

Finally, as with any of our wishes or decisions, pray to God consistently for His favor in your plans. Amazingly, the Greek word for prayer (proseúxomai) literally means, “to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes as He imparts faith”. (Strong’s concordance). The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish more than what he can do if he solely depends on his own strength (James 5:16).

An amazing idea to consider is to keep a record of your prayers. George Mueller, who is renowned for his faith and prayer had maintained a prayer journal. In his journal, about fifty thousand specific answers to his prayers are recorded of which about thirty thousand were answered on the same day of the prayer.

Wow! I think this prayer journal might have been a key secret of George Mueller’s remarkable faith. How can a person not grow in his faith when he sees thousands of prayers being answered by the Lord?

Perhaps that is something all believers can do particularly if anyone has feeble faith.

Wrap Up

I hope you will spend some time to reflect upon and define some meaningful action plans for your life this year. Make use of the above tips for your new resolutions.

Wishing you all success in your new resolutions and a joyful new year.

Dijo John – Renew In Knowledge Core Team Member